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A Novel 2-Step Culture Model for Long-Term In Vitro Maintenance of Human Pancreatic Acinar Cells

Bläuer, Merja PhD; Sand, Juhani MD, PhD; Nordback, Isto MD, PhD; Laukkarinen, Johanna MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/MPA.0000000000000105
Original Articles

Objectives Because of rapid loss of functional differentiation that regularly occurs in vitro, culture systems permitting long-term studies on pancreatic acinar cells pose a major technical challenge. We recently described a method for long-term cultivation of mouse acinar cells. Here, we introduce a novel 2-step culture system for human pancreatic acinar cells.

Methods The system involves 2 successive culture phases, which are as follows: primary organotypic culture of isolated acinar clusters under soft Matrigel (BD Biosciences, Bedford, Mass; range, 2–3 days) followed by dissociation and secondary monolayer culture of acinar cells (4 days). Basal and agonist-induced amylase secretion was used to assess the secretory capability.

Results Acinar clusters showed excellent morphology and stable basal amylase secretion throughout primary culture. Carbachol (0.1 mM/L) increased amylase secretion 1.4-fold (P = 0.021) versus basal in 3 independent 4-day secondary cultures. Despite the controversy about the presence and roles of cholecystokinin receptors in human acinar cells, one of them also responded to 0.1 and 10 nM/L concentrations of caerulein with 1.9- and 1.4-fold increases in the rate of amylase secretion, respectively.

Conclusions Our technique allows cultured human acinar cells to maintain secretory differentiation for a minimum of 7 days. The technique provides novel prospects for in vitro modeling of the human exocrine pancreas.

From the Department of Gastroenterology and Alimentary Tract Surgery and Tampere Pancreas Laboratory, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.

Received for publication June 27, 2013; accepted January 12, 2014.

Reprints: Johanna Laukkarinen, MD, PhD, Department of Gastroenterology and Alimentary Tract Surgery and Tampere Pancreas Laboratory, Tampere University Hospital, Teiskontie 35, PO Box 2000, 33521 Tampere, Finland (e-mail:

This work was supported by the Sigrid Juselius Foundation in Finland, the Medical Research Fund of Pirkanmaa Hospital District in Finland, and Competitive State Research Financing of the Expert Responsibility Area of Tampere University Hospital (grant number 9P048).

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.